When did you become aware of the obscene prices the pharmaceutical industry is charging for drugs? For many it was when a smirking Martin Shkreli, founder of Turing Pharmaceuticals, testified on the Hill in February about his price hike of the antiparasitic drug Daraprim from $13.50 to $750, after which he called lawmakers “imbeciles” in a tweeted goodbye.
For others it was the roll-out of Gilead Sciences hepatitis C drug Sovaldi in 2014 at $84,000 for a 12-week course of treatment.
“Let’s hold our position whatever competitors do or whatever the headlines,” a Gilead executive said in an internal email, an impressive commitment to price-gouging in the face of public opprobrium. The Senate Finance Committee, in an understatement, said the price did not reflect research and development but a “revenue” push. Forbes writer Avik Roy noted the same hepatitis C treatment costs $900 a year in Egypt and that US taxpayers are picking up the tab since most US hepatitis C patients are uninsured, underinsured or imprisoned.
Other shocking drug prices include:
Kalydeco a drug that treats a rare form of cystic fibrosis in patients ages 6 years and older priced at a $300,000 a year.
Acthar, a drug that treats treat seizures in infants under 2-years-old priced at a $300,000 a year.
Kadcyla, a breast cancer drug that costs $94,000 for a year.
Zydelig, a leukemia drug, made by Gilead the (Hep C drug maker) that costs $57,755 a year.
Hetlioz, a drug that treats non-24 sleep disorder—a problem affecting blind people whose circadian rhythm is off—that costs $60,000 per year.
Xyrem, a drug that treats narcolepsy for $35,000 per year
Abilify, a psychiatric drug usually added on to another expensive psychiatric drug, that costs $17, 316 year.
Praluent, a biologic to lower cholesterol expected to cost over $14,600 a year.
There are efforts to stop the apparent pharmaceutical industry profiteering and opportunism like pending state bills to force drug makers to reveal their true costs and allow insurers to refuse payment. The White House is also launching a new Medicare payment system to stop the incentives for a doctor to use a $2,000 drug when a $50 drug would do.
Currently, if doctors buy drugs themselves and administer them in the office, Medicare pays them back with a six percent bonus to cover administrative costs. Under the new program, “Doctors who prescribe a lot of newer, more expensive drugs will earn less than they used to,” notes The New York Times, as will Pharma. The move was immediately termed “another troubling example of unelected bureaucrats making decisions behind closed doors,” by Pharma-friendly lawmakers. How dare the government protect our tax dollars?
Now Pharma is fighting back. Its lobbying groups, PhRMA, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, or BIO. have launched a Washington, DC-focused campaign to keep lawmakers from legislating away its profit party.
We Save Lives—Don’t Cut Us Off, Says New Campaign
Does anyone need to be told medicine saves lives? Does anyone need to be told “life is precious”? Apparently so, because the PhRMA/ BIO campaigns depict about 25 patients whose lives were all saved or lengthened by Pharma medicines. “We’re fighting back,” says PhRMA’s new “Hope to Cures: The Value of Biopharmaceutical Innovation and New Drug Discovery” campaign. “You are not average!”
Like “Ask Your Doctor” ads created by the same high budget PR agencies, the videos are full of puppies, sunsets and People Just Like You. We get to meet “Theresa,” diagnosed with thyroid cancer at 57, “Hydeia” suffering from HIV/AIDS at 31, “Charis” suffering from ankylosing spondylitis at 29 and “Henry” suffering from glutaric acidemia Type 1 at the young age of three. In a BIO video, a voice over asks, “how do we place value” on “Another decade with a spouse. A few more years with your best friend. A rich, full life rather than one cut short.”
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